Maybe it's the crazy scientist in me, but I'm a big fan of things like this, where people play around with recipes to see what happens if you add a bit more sugar, a little less sugar, and so on. So, I had a go playing about with a vanilla sponge recipe, to see what ridiculous creations I could come up with.

The basic recipe is simple: equal amounts of egg, caster sugar, flour, and butter (e.g. 3 eggs, and 150g of everything else). Cream the butter and sugar, stir in the egg, stir in the flour, bake. Simple, right?

So, if you want to find out just how not to make a vanilla sponge (and some things that might actually be an improvement), here goes.

12 Ways to Mess With a Vanilla Sponge Cake:

biscuits, muffin, bread, pastry, chocolate, cake, candy, sweet, cookie
Kierri Price

Here's the batch of cupcakes in all its inconsistent glory - each one got a basic mixture of 1 tablespoon each of butter, sugar, egg, and self-raising flour, but then they got tweaked. Different proportions of ingredients, different types of sugar, egg, or raising agent; and they turned out rather differently. 

I tested these on a group of unsuspecting friends (and subjected myself to each cupcake as well, promise) - and here are the results.

#1 - Equal Ingredients:

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Kierri Price

Pros: Your standard cake recipe. Sweet, buttery, and with a light texture. 

Cons: Perhaps not massively exciting.

Result: 9/10

#2 - Demerara Sugar

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Kierri Price

(This one substituted caster sugar for an equal amount of demerara sugar.) 

Pros: Caramel-like in flavour, more rich and moist, and with a more golden colour.

Cons: Gritty texture from the sugar, and a little dense.

Result: 7/10

#3 - Light Muscovado Sugar:

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Kierri Price

(This one substituted caster sugar for an equal amount of light muscovado sugar.)

Pros: Toffee-ish flavour, light texture, golden colour, and good rise. Amazingly, actually tastes nice.

Cons: Potentially risks burning in the oven from the high sugar content.

Result: 10/10

#4 - Double Sugar:

cream, bread, muffin, chocolate, candy, cookie, pastry, sweet, cake
Kierri Price

(This one doubled the amount of caster sugar.)

Pros: Sweet (unsurprisingly), with a pleasantly crisp outside.

Cons: An unpleasantly raw middle... The parts that were actually cooked were OK, but being uncooked meant a hollow middle and a unstable cupcake.

Result: 4/10

#5 - Baking Powder:

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Kierri Price

(This one added baking powder.)

Pros: Nice rise, good colour, light airy texture.

Cons: Tasted of chemicals. Definitely did not go back for seconds. Fine for a display cake, but not for actual eating.

Result: 1/10

#6 - Bicarbonate of Soda:

muffin, bread, pastry, candy, cake, sweet, chocolate, cookie
Kierri Price

(This one added bicarbonate of soda.)

Pros: Decent rise, good colour.

Cons: Overly bubbly texture, and tasted fizzy. In a bad way. 

Result: 0/10

#7: Baking Powder and Bicarbonate:

sweet, wheat, cake
Kierri Price

(This one added both baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.)

Pros: Looks like a cupcake, I guess.

Cons: Tasted like eating a bar of soap. Really really really horrible. And the resemblance to an actual decent cupcake made the betrayal so much worse...

Result: -9000/10. Genuinely inedible as a cupcake. 

#8 - Double Flour:

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Kierri Price

(This one doubled the amount of flour.)

Pros: Kind of scone-like, pleasantly crumbly, and actually edible.

Cons: Totally hollow, and a tiny bit bland.

Result: 6/10

#9 - Double Butter:

cream, bread, chocolate, pastry, cookie, muffin, candy, sweet, cake
Kierri Price

(This one doubled the amount of butter.)

Pros: This one divided opinions a bit. If you're in the Pro-Butter Camp, it was rich, crumbly, and nicely coloured.

Cons: If you're in the Against-Butter Camp: very oily (and looked very grim when coming out of the oven, given that it was 50% liquid), with an unstable structure, and alarmingly yellow.

Result: 3/10 from the non-butter camp; 7/10 from the butter fans.

#10 - Double Egg:

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Kierri Price

(This one doubled the amount of egg.)

Pros: Pretty decent rise, moist, decent texture.

Cons: Tasted suspiciously like egg, to some people. (How weird, wouldn't have guessed that one...).

Result: 6/10

#11 - Just Egg White:

butter, wheat, bread, chocolate, cookie, pastry, muffin, candy, cake, sweet
Kierri Price

(This one used egg white instead of whole beaten egg.)

Pros: Light, airy, pale in colour, with a good rise.

Cons: Maybe a bit anaemic, depending on what you look for in a cake.

Result: 9/10

#12 - Just Egg Yolk:

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Kierri Price

(This one used egg yolk instead of whole beaten egg.)

Pros: Pleasant colour, moist, crumbly, with a surprisingly light texture.

Cons: Not many - it was actually quite a decent cake.

Result: 10/10


goody, chocolate, cookie, muffin, candy, pastry, cake, sweet
Kierri Price

Overall winners had to be: Equal Ingredients; Light Muscovado Sugar; Egg White; Egg Yolk. Egg substitutes worked surprisingly well - definitely worth playing with in your next cake bake.

Potentially worth experimenting with: Demerara Sugar; Double Flour; Double Butter; Double Egg. It depends on your personal taste preferences, but experimenting with different sugars and different proportions could have potential.

Please don't eat these: Baking Powder; Bicarbonate of Soda; Baking Powder and Bicarb. Given that the cupcakes were quite small, the proportion of raising agent added was rather huge - and it was definitely noticeable. When making a full-size cake, raising agents can be really useful, but if you overdo it, it tastes more like detergent than bakery.

So, if you feel like getting into the kitchen and creating your own cakes, here are some ideas! (And here, and here.)